Did you find the labyrinth or did it find you?
I found the labyrinth unexpectedly; I was looking for something but I did not know what. In January or February 1991, I was feeling burned out from my pastoral work with the AIDS crisis and took a short sabbatical. I decided to dip back into Jean Houston’s work while asking, “What is my next step?” I had worked with Jean in 1985; she hadn’t, to my knowledge, used the labyrinth then.
But this time her team had taped an 11-circuit labyrinth on the floor at the Greenskill Conference Center in Port Jarvis, New Jersey. Jean used the labyrinth ritually with the 120 people present, lining us up front to back. I couldn’t see the pattern clearly, which made for an anxious beginning, but the whole evening, I just wanted to walk it by myself. The large group finally cleared out and went to bed, and I continued walking it, perhaps three times, with a few others.
It had an impact on me immediately. I know this because I had a significant dream that night. It took a couple months for me to figure out the impact. After that, I felt like the Hound of Heaven was hunting me down. Finally, in March, I heard a clear voice say to me, “Put the labyrinth in the Cathedral.” This was not my thought. My immediate inner response was, ‘Who could do that?’
How was Grace Cathedral instrumental in the evolution of Veriditas?
Tell us about that first labyrinth in the Cathedral.
When we returned to San Francisco, several volunteers painted the 36’ Chartres-style canvas labyrinth. We originally created it to be part of the Common Boundary Conference on Sacred Stories held in Crystal City, Virginia. That was my first ever experience offering it. We opened the labyrinth for the first time at Grace Cathedral at the 24-hour New Years Eve event called “Singing for Your Life” with Bobby McFerrin. On that memorable night, 5,000 people came to the cathedral. Long lines of people waited patiently for their turn to walk. We had TV and media coverage on the 11:00 PM news announcing the opening of the labyrinth!
What was the sequence of the labyrinths after that initial canvas one?
In 2007, we installed the current limestone and marble Chartres-style labyrinth in the Nave of the Cathedral to replace the tapestry labyrinth. Our goal was to get the permanent labyrinth into the floor as Alan Jones' legacy before he retired.
How do you feel the placement of the labyrinth in Grace Cathedral influenced the acceptance of the labyrinth?
Where and when did Veriditas enter into the picture?
Then, a moment of synchronicity happened. In December 1994, I presented a workshop on the labyrinth at the Union Theological Seminary. My friend Gloria Karpinski from North Carolina took this pamphlet and began reading aloud the drop quotes from it to entice Susan Paterson, who was just about to step to the helm of Penguin Putnam, to consider publishing it. A few days later, after meetings and negotiations assisted by my friend and soon editor Jan Johnson, I left New York with a book contract.
One of the volunteers I met was Tom Keelan (pictured with Lauren below), who was working with the
Development Committee. Once “ Walking a Sacred Path” came out, I
received 60 workshop invitations, and Tom helped set up these workshops.
I began traveling in 1992 about once every two months, then every
month, and then once all these invitations were secured, I travelled
almost every weekend alone. But it became too much - carrying the canvas
and, by then, products to support Veriditas, so Tom joined me in travel
When did you sense your deep connection to the Chartres Labyrinth?
How and why did the word Veriditas speak so clearly to you?
What were the major challenges you encountered in the early years of Veriditas?
As we move closer to this summer’s celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Veriditas, it is my honor to interview Robert Ferre. Robert has been with Veriditas from the beginning. He is a labyrinth designer, builder and teacher of building labyrinths. He is also an author, Veriditas Certified Facilitator, Sustaining Giver and dedicated supporter of the mission of Veriditas.
Rita: How did you get involved with Lauren Artress and Veriditas?
Rita: Would you share an experience or story for us of your work with the labyrinth?
It was always interesting to travel with Lauren. In addition to Chartres, we went to Disibodenberg, Germany to visit the abbey to which Hildegard of Bingen had been taken as a young child and then grew up to be the Abbess. The name “Veriditas” comes from her writings, meaning the “greening of life”. And so there is a strong connection between Hildegard and Veriditas. In modern times someone has built a labyrinth among the ruins where her cell had been. We visited another labyrinth in the back yard of the woman who was serving as our guide and a lot of the people enjoyed walking that labyrinth. There was always a variety of possibilities in our travels together.
Rita: Why do you donate to Veriditas?
Rita: Anything else you’d like to share about your experiences with Lauren and Veriditas?
My journey with the Labyrinth intensified last March, 2014, when I was invited to go to La Falda and build the first Veriditas Legacy Labyrinth. I met Enrique and Kristin Dura, the owners of the Alla Ariba Retreat Center, and the couple that brought the Legacy Labyrinth to La Falda. I enjoyed the work of building the labyrinth and fellowship of all who participated in that event. This year I was the one person from the building crew to be in La Falda when the first Legacy Labyrinth had her first birthday. I was honored to be Veriditas’ representative to that event.
Samuel Hall was a participant and represented the second Legacy Labyrinth in Jacksonville, Florida. He brought a gift to the Mayor of LaFalda and invited him to think of the Florida Labyrinth as a sister to the La Falda Labyrinth. The mayor took time out of his re-election schedule to come to Alla Arriba to receive Sam’s gift.
Sam became the keeper of the Labyrinth for us at the Retreat and did a wonderful job of facilitating and educating us regarding how to use the Labyrinth in our daily lives. The Labyrinth is now a ritual for each of us to practice and when used, draws us together as a council of elders.
I’ve received the following testimonies from several of the men who attended:
“The Alla Arriba Retreat Center was a perfect location and choice for
the "Retreat For Men Over 50". It was a wonderful thing being there in
LaFalda with guys in my age group who were able to share true thoughts
and feelings. Enrique and Kristin were the most gracious hosts and the
staff of the center put so much love and attention into the details of
their work. Incorporating the local culture into the week’s activities
was an excellent idea in order to give us a real feel of being in
“That was a fabulous retreat. Thank you for naturally modeling what a man with a truly open heart can be. You were also smart to choose a place where the love and open heartedness of the people would also support the mission.”
We are planning another Men’s Retreat in LaFalda next March. Consider joining us.
“I came to the retreat looking for guidance on the path of aging, asking:
We have started! It will be in three pieces with the flat velcro version... should be about 40 - 50 lbs per piece
Velcro on, ready to hem!
Today is draw the Chartres Chartres day!
These bags hold the three sections... organized like a French flag, i.e. white is the center section.
Painting day one!
Dhyana has ironed and is taping lunations...
by the way, this is the same room Lauren spoke in during our introduction to the Labyrinth in May 1993!
Day 2 painting: infused authenticity. Rubbings I took in Chartres way back in 2003 laid on the labyrinth destined for Chartres!
Day 3 painting: we often set intentions for the day with a brief song on the Native American flute ..... traditionally spontaneous
We finished painting a few minutes ago
The Council met in Jacksonville, FL on March 21-23
The journey awakens the soul.
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh
On Sunday afternoon, we drove to Omnisara Labyrinth and Gardens, the
site of the Second Legacy Labyrinth. We were thrilled to spend the
afternoon with the Omnisara community, including Leah Hudson-Hall and
her inspiring family, feeling their commitment to the vision of this
healing place. Approximately 20 people, including several newly trained
facilitators from Jacksonville, south Florida and Georgia, spoke of
their involvement with the labyrinth. Leah spoke of the palpable
connection she felt with the First Legacy Labyrinth community in La
Falda, Argentina. As part of the welcoming ritual, she passed a stone
from the First Legacy Labyrinth around the circle, asking each of us to
add our blessing. We all appreciated each step on the pathway of this
Second Legacy Labyrinth. With hopes of returning to experience the
wide-reaching vision of Omnisara and continuing to offer our active
support, we departed.
Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living:
simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid;
each cycle of the wave is valid;
each cycle of a relationship is valid.
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh
On Tuesday, April 7, 2015, just two weeks after
We are gathering your stories of how the labyrinth has changed you or your life. These stories will be shared on our website in the months leading up to our celebration, and in a book celebrating Veriditas' 20th Birthday. To submit your story for inclusion, please click here. Thank you for being a part of our Veriditas Family!